ROBERT, La. — BP was confident Saturday its latest attempt to capture much of the oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico will succeed even as the company disclosed yet another setback in their experiments to curb one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.
BP believes it can hook up its mile-long tube to suck oil from a blown-out well, despite an earlier snag with connecting two pieces of equipment. If successful, it would be the first time the company has captured any of the oil since a rig sank April 22 and millions of gallons of crude started spewing into the ocean.
The company also began spraying dispersants beneath the sea Saturday and said the chemicals appears to have reduced the amount of surface oil. The spraying is a contentious development because it has never been done underwater.
Technicians have been working since early Friday to insert the tube into an oil pipe a mile beneath the surface using robotic submarines. The tube is intended to suck oil up like a straw to a tanker on the surface, while a stopper surrounding it would keep crude from leaking into the sea.
Engineers trying to connect the lengthy tube to framework on the bottom of the ocean ran into trouble Friday, BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles said. The framework had to be brought to the surface to be adjusted.
The framework was returned to the ocean floor, and engineers were attempting again to hook it up. They hoped to start bringing up oil by Saturday night, Suttles said.
If it works, BP thinks it would contain more than three-quarters of the leak. A smaller leak is several thousand feet away at the site of the blowout preventer.
The insertion tube and dispersants are the latest of several efforts to fight the massive spill. The company has also tried to contain the leak with a 100-ton box and burn small amounts of oil at the surface.